Pastor Terry Inman
Last Sunday Mary and I joined our friends Les and Melanie for a short ride along the Yellowstone River to the Wolf Ridge Lamb and Wool Ranch. It is located at the foot of Emigrant Peak in Paradise Valley. It is the most photographed mountain in Montana.
Barb the shepherdess there is a strong woman. She was recently bucked and kicked by her mule. I’m not sure why she insists on riding it. She was just recovering from three broken ribs when she got thrown face down into the gravel. It left a noticeable scar on the side of her face. Lately she has also been facing some relationship stress and battling depression.
We bought one of her beautiful Icelandic Sheep pelts and then spent some time listening and praying for her. She told us about the Paradise Valley Community Church that she started attending. She said she really enjoys the bible teaching of the new Pastor.
After prayer I felt impressed to share with her the verse that got my attention at the begging of the year last January. “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40.11(NIV)
She knows all about shepherding. Early this spring she will be in the thick of the lambing season. She is a new lamb herself. Jesus is gently leading her through some tough times right now.
As we left I noticed a large bible lying next to some yarn in the seat of her green ford pick up. With a wide smile she said, wow I was just getting ready to go to church and you brought the church to me!
As a staff we have been working all year on this shepherding image.
We live in a very challenging community where less than 5% attend church. We are attempting to take the church to the city. Lambing season in our diverse community is not so easy but we are convinced that God is leading us to equip you to reach your family, and your friends.
According to Luke Jesus had one purpose. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19.10 (NIV)
Another word for save is rescue. So let’s talk today about RESCUE 2013. It is the first of our four purposes here at Harbor Light.
There’s always room for improvement but by all indications we do well at three of our four purposes, recovery, rebuilding and releasing mature followers of Jesus Christ. A few years ago we received some national recognition in the Reveal Study for our efforts at growing disciples.
Some of the things we do to accomplish that task have been noted in a book titled “Move”. It features best practices for moving people through stages of spiritual growth. Apparently we have been able to do that well.
However we have never been content with our effectiveness at reaching the “not-yet-followers” of Jesus Christ. This year we are asking the Lord to help us take the church to the unreached in new and productive ways.
God cares about lost people. Jesus expressed his passion for missing sheep with a parable. The religious leaders were upset that Jesus “welcomed people they considered “sinners” and He even ate with them.”
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.
We often think of evangelism in terms of reaching the masses. But God is focused on the lost “one”. What if we all concentrated on reaching and nurturing just one this year? Look at all the joy in this parable…
Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15.1-3 (NIV)
This was a very familiar allegory in this ancient mid-eastern culture. A hundred sheep was a typical manageable flock. The average church in America is under 100. Only 2% of American churches have 1000 or more. The “open country” would be a safe place for a fold of 99 to graze.
This is not unlike the western church we get quite comfortable staying in the sanctuary where we can safely graze. But the shepherd in Jesus’ illustration is very concerned about the missing strays outside the fold.
He takes some risks in leaving the ninety-nine well-behaved sheep to go out and search for “sinners”. When he finds them they are wounded. They have to be carried on his shoulders but he is very happy to have found the one. He takes the lamb home. He invites all his friends over to rejoice.
Jesus tells these self-righteous leaders that heaven is happier about one lost sinner that gets carried back into the flock, that all the rest of the pseudo-religious folks that don’t think they have any need to repent.
The most exciting thing in your journey of faith other than your own rescue is when you are able to assist in another persons rescue. I love to see lost sheep found. It’s joyful on earth and in heaven. It’s really fun!
But rescuing the lost is very risky and not very easy. We are not the only evangelical church in America that is challenged by this resistant culture. 94% of churches in America are either plateaued or declining. Fortunately the Assemblies of God is one of the few national bodies that is growing. There is a national discussion on how to turn this turn this trend around.
It reminds me of this clip I saw of some experts talking about how they would have rescued the victims of the Titanic. Built in Belfast Ireland the Titanic was the largest luxury liner of its time. It was billed as the safest vessel ever built.
Last April was the 100 anniversary of its tragic sinking in the North Atlantic after colliding with an Iceberg. Of the 2224 passengers only a little more the 700 survived. For one thing there was only enough lifeboats for less that 1200 people. This remains as one of the greatest maritime tragedies ever. Small groups in our church are like life-boats.
This clip by National Geographic is an interesting discussion a hundred years later on how the experts would have saved more lives…
I for one don’t want a group of religious experts to set around a hundred years from now and second guess why we lost so many people in the darkness of 2013. I desperately want to find out what the great shepherd of the sheep wants us to do to reach the lost in the Fremont-Tri-cities.
I am not willing to give up our search and rescue efforts. In fact I want to be like first responders that risk everything to save as many as they can.
Our Pastoral Team has been working on some strategies to better care for our sheep and embrace more lambs into the fold. This past week we went off-sight for three days of prayer and planning. Our theme for this year is “Building a Rescue Team”.
We have agreed on six defining objectives. In addition to what we are already doing these are things we will do to accomplish this goal.
The team reaches out to FCS Students and Parents.
Fremont Christian School is a daily mission field right here on our campus. In addition to many local students that are learning more about Christ we have over 80 international students. Many of them are hearing about Christ for the first time. Our Faculty cannot accomplish this task alone.
The team resources connection groups for the purpose of rescue.
Will be recruiting and training more connection group leaders and introducing a simple tool called “Life Shape” that will help us promote spiritual growth, build deeper relationships and reach out to others.
The Team provides leadership training for rescue.
We will facilitate opportunities to develop leadership motivation and appreciation especially as it relates to our rescue objectives. We have our first a leadership summit scheduled for Martin Luther King Day, the first Monday in February at 6:30 P.M.
Our Pastor’s will engage one-on-one with leaders in our church to coach and encourage rescue efforts. One of the best ways to train leaders is by example. We will be sharing your rescue stories through out the year.
The team optimizes all-Church events for rescue.
We will continue to improve special events like Easter, Harvest Festival, and Christmas as opportunities to reach out to the pre-churched.
We want these events to be attractive for you to invite your family and friends. Non-religious people were very attracted to Jesus! In a recent survey, 7 out of 10 un-churched respondents said they have never been invited. 75 % are willing to receive information about a local church from a family member, and 60 % from a friend or neighbor. The message is clear; the un-churched are open to conversations about church!
We are going to continue to provide many opportunities for you to invite family, friends, neighbors and workplace associates. Pollster George Barna says over half of us are here because we were invited by someone.
The team deploys people for external service for rescue.
We are going to encourage you to volunteer to meet needs and establish friendships though community service with Compassion Network. Projects like the giving tree and thanksgiving meals are great but its repeated personal engagement that brings sheep to the fold.
We have now added Cabrillo Elementary School to our Kids Club outreach. But we are going to seek ways to adopt and serve the school’s campus. This fall we hope to launch an apartment outreach ministry to assist the underserved in our neighborhood.
We will continue to give outreach groups like Celebrate Recovery, Cleansing Streams and Divorce Recovery more support and visibility. In the near future we want to host a community care-faire on our campus.
The team develops a relational process for follow-up.
We are doing several things to be more guest friendly. We have a “first touch team” that gives warm hospitality in our foyer. We are developing systems for natural follow-up of our new comers and new believers.
This is starting to sound like an infomercial but we are passionate about finding, feeding, and folding lost sheep. We care very much about the 99 we have many ministries and groups that provide support, teaching and friendship but heaven gets a lot of joy out of rescuing the “one”.
So how about everyone rescue at least one in 2013!